Assistant Sports Editor
It’s the middle of February. A little more than two weeks removed from the greatest spectacle of sport, and we’re already turning the page. We’ve just finished watching the greatest in the game, and now the attention is turned to the next big thing.
In a world where attention spans last shorter than the temperature outside, we’ve already moved on.
In Indianapolis, the best and brightest stars (or so we’re told) gather in Lucas Oil Stadium for the Scouting Combine. In skin tight shirts and shorts, they sprint, they jump, they throw, they catch. Some draft stocks plummet while others sky rocket, but it all doesn’t matter.
When Bill Parcells took over football operations, he was at the beginning of a short trend; the Wildcat. It was a decisive and game changing approach, a way to keep defenses off balance. But in order to run the Wildcat effectively, you needed the right person.
That’s why, with the 44th overall pick, Parcells took West Virginia’s Pat White, a dynamic dual threat quarterback. An athlete who possessed the skills Parcells needed most, speed and throwing ability. But just like the Wildcat, it didn’t pan out.
White spent just one season in Miami and a second in Washington, completing zero of five pass attempts in his career, for an outstanding QB Rating of 39.6. On 21 rushing attempts, White managed 81 yards, but never once hit pay dirt. The man who dazzled scouts with a 4.55 second 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical, and an impressive 7.06 second 3-cone drill, was in and out of the NFL faster than his 40-yard dash.
Parcells learned his lesson, and from that year on during his time in Miami, Parcells finalized the team’s draft board before the Combine. No player would rise or fall on the board unless it had to do with legal issues, intellectual issues, or anything along those lines.
That’s why the Combine simply doesn’t matter. Yes, you will see players awe the scouts in attendance. With a steaming fast 40, a dazzling broad or vertical jump, or an impressive 225-pound bench press max. But none of those traits truly matter in the NFL, at least not in spandex shorts and shirts.
Why do I care how fast a 6’4” 310-pound lineman runs a 40-yard dash. He never has to run that in a game, heck, he barely runs 10 yards up or down field. Yes, a vertical jump will matter for a wide receiver or defensive back, but without pads and no player draped over his shoulders? Never once will he do that.
And bench press? Trench players are the only ones that will do anything close to that, but even then, its about explosion at the line of scrimmage, not a trait you have been perfecting for the past three months.
The position specific drills make sense, but that’s about it. But if I’m a quarterback, and I choose not to throw at the Combine, what does that say? If this is the biggest job interview of these players career, shouldn’t they be doing the one thing they will be asked to do for the duration of their careers?
Until players start running in full pads, throwing with defensive lineman in their face, and running routes against defensive backs instead of air, I won’t be interested. By no means do I consider myself an NFL athlete, but if I trained for months on end to perfect five, six, or seven different traits, I could post reasonably average numbers.
So when you see Vic Beasley showed off with a 4.53 second 40-yard dash and 35 rep bench press, it’s no surprise that his draft is going up faster than him. But don’t look at the combine as the moment he sprouted up the draft board. Point to his 33 sacks at Clemson or his 52.5 tackles for a loss. Look at his game tape, not at his Combine tape.
After all, the Combine is just a bunch of grown men running around in their underwear. Unfortunately, it’s also the point when they potentially make or break their NFL careers.